The Smart Homes of the Future
Yesterland’s “House of the Future” was an early attempt by visionaries to project themselves into the next millennium. Disney opened the space in 1957 with eventual collaboration from Microsoft, HP, and other company sponsors. They imagined a space-age structure with a stark white appearance, rounded corners, and floor-to-ceiling windows. While the structure was closed in 2015, the “House of the Future” isn’t gone — at least not in spirit.
Today’s builders and tech companies continue to play with the concept of future design, and the rapid pace of innovation has given way to amazing technologies that support it. While tomorrow’s homes aren’t likely to conform to the space-age aesthetic, they’ll incorporate products that are no less stunning. The integration of virtual assistants and smart home technology is only the beginning.
We’ll explore that integration in greater detail, looking at the trajectory of technology, construction, and design. These fields will see incredible transformation over the next several decades, coordinating to create the true “House of the Future.” So, what does the house look like, what will its occupants enjoy, and what can homeowners and builders alike expect as they continue into 2020 and beyond?
Super Smart Assistants
Virtual assistants are more than a passing trend. They’ve gained a foothold in the US, with many homeowners using Google Assistant and Alexa to control their smart home devices. Whether they’re answering questions, playing music, or adjusting the lights, virtual assistants have a wide variety of applications.
These virtual assistants will continue to develop in their complexity and functionality. They’ll enable their users to instantly translate an unfamiliar language without web browsers, depending on an earpiece or similar device that processes speech. Tech companies have taken up this challenge.
In the homes of the future, virtual assistants will assist with real-time translation through speech recognition, speech synthesis, neural networks, and machine translation. This combination of technologies has the potential to eliminate the language barrier between people from different countries.
Within the context of smart homes, a host will greet and accommodate their guests regardless of their native language. With growing migrant and refugee populations, real-time translation software will prove invaluable in making connections and supporting diversity. It starts with easy communication.
Central Systems Control
Smart home products have already seen consolidation through virtual assistants, mentioned above. Systems such as Google Assistant and Alexa serve as a nexus, and homeowners only have to say, “Hey, Google” or “Alexa” to activate their devices. It’s safe to speculate that these systems and tools will only improve.
With the popularity of smart home products, construction companies will begin to incorporate modern technologies in exciting ways. They’ll install sensors in the walls, ceilings, and floors, and integration with appliances will allow for easy management. Homeowners will have access to data anywhere and everywhere as a result.
More than that, this arrangement of sensors will have the capacity to turn lights on and off, order groceries when necessary, and even monitor the homeowner’s health. They’ll ensure that all parts of the home are running at peak efficiency, providing reminders when the fridge needs defrosting or a generator needs repair.
In other words, a central control for systems is the natural conclusion of today’s smart home technology. While this kind of control is already possible, with grouping and the use of “routines,” it will only mature over time. When the year 2050 comes around, these holistic systems will seem commonplace.
Unbelievable Energy Efficiency
What will our energy output look like in just a few decades? As our technology improves, the smart homes of the future benefit from energy efficiency improvements unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Renewable energy will only be on the rise, with smart homes finding alternate energy products both more efficient and more affordable. Photovoltaic research currently produces solar panels at an energy efficiency rating of 15 percent, for example, but in a few decades, smart homes can be rigged with solar panels that convert 40 percent or more of the sun’s energy into electricity.
Even more classical appliances are being revamped for the future. Take the magnetocaloric refrigerator being developed by General Electric. Powered by a magnetic field, these fridges of the future will allow homes to cool their food with a 20 to 30 percent increase in energy savings.
Currently, zero-waste communities are an impressive achievement rather than a rule. But as innovations create more possibilities for energy efficient technology, it’s likely that the smart homes of the future will be built and operated to be more off-the-grid than we can imagine.
Sustainable Construction Practices
Sustainable building isn’t a new concept, but it’s an increasingly important one. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has pushed for urgent changes to avert drought, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people across the world. According to scientists, catastrophe is only 11 years away without serious intervention.
Fortunately, technology and construction companies are beginning to implement eco-friendly innovations in housing, accommodating everything from recycled building materials to entirely new design and construction systems.
The use of eco-friendly building materials like bamboo and precast concrete is a step in the right direction, for example. Housing construction will continue to experiment with new ways to reduce waste and reuse materials, whether that means designing with recycled flooring or mixing reclaimed materials into concrete aggregates.
But it’s not just what smart homes will be built with — it’s also how they’ll be built. As a continuation of these trends, modular homes are likely to see widespread adoption. When companies create their construction components off-site in a controlled setting, they’re far more efficient and reduce resources across the board.
Plus, our future homes will need to adapt to expanding urban centers. Cities will continue to grow, and modular housing will allow us to erect new housing that’s finished more quickly and more efficiently than traditional building practices can manage.
With this in mind, homeowners will likely see modular components elsewhere. They’ll enjoy walls that move for easy reconfiguration, changing their office into a lounge or even a bedroom. Greater flexibility in a home’s interior will allow for customization and convenience to accommodate any preferences.
Moving Toward Tomorrow
The US will undergo an incredible transformation in the coming years. With advances in real-time translation software and virtual assistants, the increasing relevance of central systems control and the urgent need for eco-friendly innovations, the “House of the Future” isn’t so far away.
While tomorrow’s smart homes won’t look like a theme park attraction, many of their features will seem just as impressive. More than that, these hypothetical features are necessary. In an increasingly diverse, complex, and threatened world, change starts in the home, with a vision of a better future.
Written by: Holly Welles, BOSS Contibutor
Holly Welles is a real estate writer who covers the latest market trends in everything from residential to commercial spaces. She is the editor behind her own blog, The Estate Update, and curates more advice on Twitter.